Giving a colleague a ride home the other night, I was confronted with the question of where I think the dynamics of this 2008 presidential contest are headed in these last few weeks. “What do you think of Sen. John McCain?” he asked. “Do you think his negative attacks on Sen. Barack Obama would work?” And by that, I presumed he was referring to the recent ratchet of attacks by Sen. McCain insinuating stories of untold bond between William Ayers— Vietnam War-era radical turned “purist” whose group was responsible for bombings of federal buildings decades earlier—and Sen. Obama. With only a few hours left to the last presidential debate for this political season, I empathetically reiterate what I told him that night: Time’s up! The gentleman from Arizona has now run out of time and must leave the stage.
It is hard to determine that specific moment in time when it all unraveled; or maybe it didn’t even all unravel at once. Those earliest seven years of the George W. Bush presidency did to McCain what I don’t know even if the Senator can bravely mutter in audible and discernible words without breaking down. In 2001, former CNN genius, Jeff Greenfield, in his book “Oh Waiter! One Order of Crow!” described in strong and palpable words the enigma called John McCain. “Never, never had I seen a candidate more in The Zone than John McCain was in New Hampshire early in 2000. There was in him…a sense of grace, of a link to something more substantial than baby-boomer self-indulgence,” he wrote. “…He was not only the anti-Clinton—he was the anti-Bush.”
So fast forward to present day 2008—in an environment I was convinced no Republican candidate flaunting the conservative flag was going to be around three months to the Election Day let alone win the White House—the moderate McCain wiggled his way through to emerge as the Republican nominee. Running against a historic presidential candidate on the other side (Democratic nominee Barack Obama), McCain for the sheer wrought of his candidacy in 2000 couldn’t be easily discounted; even if you readily wanted to do so. But soon enough, as a result of an overpowering and relentless Democratic war apparatus or just maybe Mother Time taking her due course, McCain’s inflicted wounds from the Bush years began to bleed out, no longer concealable by his body armor. His unpopular and endless support of an indefinite Iraqi War was aggressively coming home to roost; this was to be the first in a very fast and short series of fatal wounds.
Seeing a rapidly-receding candidacy, McCain swung for the fences in a drastic play. The arrival of Alaskan Republican Governor Sarah Palin on the campaign ticket was a daring tourniquet. I personally did not know if it was going to work in the long run, but in the short term, I was convinced of its wonders. I was excited and afraid for McCain at the same time, and as history would bear out, the Palin arrival brought unprecedented energy and enthusiasm to the campaign. And just like it came, it was gone—A phenomenal fashion trend of its own kind! And then, with a sudden swiftness, another debilitating wound began to show through McCain’s armor, it was to be the most fatal yet and the reason why I believe this campaign grounds to a halt here. It was an unforgiving flow of red, a gushing stream of economic red that saw the biggest financial collapses in the nation’s history.
No matter where you are on the planet, the sustainability of life anywhere between groups of people is dependent on money; especially for low-income and middle-class citizens, the very bulk of whom make up any electorate. So if not for any other reason, this economic uproar so close to the Election Day under President Bush has created what I call a “vengeful caseload of reasonable doubt” against any maverick vows of efficiency promised by Sen. McCain on the campaign trail. You may very well argue that after the Senator’s profession of knowing little to nothing about the economy, the selection of Gov. Romney, a proven and affluent businessman, as his running mate instead of Gov. Palin, would have maybe made things so drastically different. But with the baggage that comes with such a Romney selection, future historians would have to sit down and argue the merits of it all.
I would be watching tonight’s debate strictly for entertainment value; I expect some sort of effort from the Senator from Arizona, but it would be futile. You don’t have to wonder too deep about where the McCain of 2000 went off course. “I voted with the president over 90% of the time,” said the Senator on one of the news networks, “higher than a lot of my even Republican colleagues.” The anti-Bush has indeed become the pro-Bush—what a difference seven years makes. Not even a record 936-point gain this past Monday on the Dow Jones Industrials can resurrect the corpse of Sen. McCain. “I’m confident in the long run, this economy will come back,” said President Bush the morning before this debate. The long run is exactly the luxury McCain doesn’t have. Even if Sen. Obama stumbles in the coming hours and days, it’s still not a question of if he would win; it will just remain a question of by how much. So welcome aboard Air Force One President Obama! Please fasten your seatbelt, ’cause there are some serious forecast of tumultuous turbulence ahead.